4 eggs, at room temperature
1 lb. sifted powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. anise oil (not extract)¹
3 C. cake flour, sifted with 1/2 tsp. hartshorn (baker's ammonia)² or baking powder
Beat eggs for 10 minutes. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar, and continue beating for 20 minutes. Add lemon juice and anise oil. Add flour gradually, beating after each addition. When dough gets too stiff for mixer, add the balance of the flour by hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a bowl cover - the dough will form a crust if air gets to it. Chill dough for at least one hour.
Use a pastry cloth well-dusted with cake flour to cover the board. Knead the dough a few times. (Dough will be sticky at first; knead in just enough flour to make it manageable - too much will toughen the dough.) Pat out a small portion of the dough at a time, keeping the rest covered airtight and refrigerated. Use a covered rolling pin to roll the dough about ¼" thick. If dough is still too soft, work in small amounts of cake flour until a good texture is obtained. The dough should be just stiff enough to take a good, crisp imprint.
Dust the molds thoroughly with flour (a pastry brush works well on finely detailed molds), then press firmly on dough. Cut between pictures, using a small knife or a pizza/pastry cutter.
¹I've found that other natural flavoring oils make equally delicious cookies and provide a springerle treat for those who dislike anise flavor. Try natural lemon oil (a great tea cookie!), bitter almond oil (flavor similar to marzipan), or orange oil (with a little finely grated orange peel added). ²Hartshorn, the traditional European leavening agent, is available from baker's supply houses or specialty stores. Store it in a zip-lock bag inside an airtight jar in the refrigerator and it will last for years.
Do the imprinting in daylight - the design detail will be easier to see. Repeat until all dough is used. Carefully transfer cookies onto cookie sheets lined with baker's parchment, or onto non-stick sheets well-greased with shortening. Avoid insulated cookie sheets, which will cause the springerle to brown during baking.
Allow springerle to dry on the sheets for 12 hours, uncovered. Drying protects the design during baking.
Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes, checking to prevent any browning. Springerle should be golden on the bottom and white on top.
Yield depends on the size of mold used - about 3 dozen 2"x 3" cookies. Stored airtight, the springerle will keep for months. If they become hard, add a slice of apple to the storage container for a day before serving.
Springerle designs may be painted to wonderful effect, using a fine watercolor brush dipped in diluted food color. Keep the colors soft. Remember to reserve your springerle paint brush strictly for food use.